Make your workplace into showcase that can be understood by everyone at a glance.
– Taiichi Ohno
We’ve all heard the phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words. There’s actually a scientific rationale for that: the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than written information. Almost half of the nerve fibers in the brain are linked to the retina and ninety percent of the information processed by the brain is visual. So why would you want to try to run an organization by reading reports instead of visiting the gemba?
Core concepts in Lean include removing waste and respect for people. By making information visual and public, you can both convey information more efficiently and respect people by communicating the status and expectations of the organization. With effective visual management all employees can align their actions to the goals of the organization, and take corrective action when actions or results are not aligned.
As Taiichi Ohno said in the quote above, the goal of visual management is to convey the status of the organization at a glance. This status includes the status of the current situation, work process flow, whether you are achieving or missing goals and milestones, and any anomalies
This can be done in various ways, including posting A3 reports on strategies and projects, metrics boards, production schedule boards, shadow boards for tools, kamishibai boards, and kanban. Many Lean organizations have an obeya, a single room that has the key visual management and control charts for the organization. Note that it is not a “war room!” To respect people, this room should be open and accessible to as many employees as possible. In my last company what was effectively an obeya room was a wide section of the main hallway, and was also where we held our daily executive stand up meeting. That meeting, and the information in the “room,” was also open to everyone.
Several examples of these methods are in the Resources section. In Lean operations you will also see andons, which are visual status indicators such as red/green lights on machines, and there will often be markings on the floor to indicate the correct location of equipment and supplies.